|Meenakshi-Sundareswar Temple||Located 8 Kms South of Madurai Railway Junction|
|Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam||Located at a distance of 5 km from Madurai Meenakshi Temple|
|Azhagar Kovil||Located about 21 kilometers from Madurai|
|Koodal Azhagar Temple||Located near the main bus stop in the centre of the city|
|Thiruparankundram||Situated about 10 kilometers from Madurai City|
|Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal||Situated nearly 2 kilometers from the celebrated Meenakshi Amman Temple|
|Kazimar Big Mosque and Maqbara||Situated about 1 kilometer from Madurai Junction|
|Goripalayam Dargah||Located at Goripalayam of Madurai.|
|Gandhi Museum||Located opposite the Tamukkam grounds in a palace|
|Vaigai Dam||Situated about 69 km from Madurai|
|Manalur||Situated on the banks of the river Vaigai, about 20 km from Madurai|
Also called Meenakshi Amman Temple and dedicated to Lord Sundareswar and Goddess Meenakshi, this historic Hindu shrine is the icon of Tamil Nadu heritage. Sundareswar means the beautiful God and Meenakshi means the fish eyed Goddess. Lord Shiva is called Sundareswar and Goddess Parvati is called Meenakshi. The Meenakshi Amman temple has an interesting legendary backdrop. Maharaja Malayadwaja, the second Pandya King and his better half Kanchanamalai performed a yagna named ‘Putra Kameshti Yagna’ for the sake of acquiring an offspring that would heir their kingdom.
Goddess Parvati emerged out of the sacred fire and granted the couple a daughter who was her own incarnation. But the girl had a deformity. The King was flabbergasted to see the girl with three breasts. But the goddess relieved him by saying that the extra breast will disperse when she meets her future husband. The king Malayadwaja named his daughter Tadaatagai and brought her up training her as a capable heir to the throne. She was trained in all 64 Shastras which included warfare.
When Tadaatagai was off age and it was the time to hand the empire over to her, according to the custom, she was sent for Digvijayam (Victory across all directions). She vanquished Satyaloka, Vaikuntha and Amaravati and advanced for Kailasha. But the very moment she looked into the eyes of Lord Shiva, she felt so shy that she was not able to fight. The third breast disappeared and she realized that Lord Shiva himself was her future husband. Both of them together returned to Madurai and the King Malayadwaja got them married. Theirs was the never before marriage on the earth and everybody from all Lokas had gathered at Madurai for attending the biggest wedding.
The quintessence of Hindu culture, the Meenakshi Amman Temple is regarded to be nearly 2500 years old. It is believed that the original Meenakshi temple was constructed by the Pandya King ‘Maharaja Kulasekara’ yet the whole credit for the architectural supremacy goes to Nayaka Kings who reined Madurai between 16th and 18th century. In 1310 AD, the original temple was sacked by Malik Kafur. Later Nayaka Kings rebuilt the present temple. Maharaja Viswanatha Nayak took the initiative, following which King Thirumalai Nayak, Rani Mangammal and Rani Meenakshi made a noteworthy contribution in building it up.
Meenakshi - Sundareswar temple, the icon of Tamil Nadu is the terrestrial pivot of the city. This massive complex of the temple having four entrances in four directions is spread over the extensive area of 45 acres. Twelve splendidly sculptured Gopurams (towers) encompass the temple, the tallest of them being 170 feet high. The mighty temple complex comprises the shrines of various deities like Lord Shiva, Lord Ganesha and Goddess Meenakshi. Apart from the shrines, ‘Velli Ambalam’ is the stage where Lord Shiva had performed the ‘Taandav’ dance in the form of Nataraja. The Porthamarai Kulam Lake, the Aayiram Kaal Mandapam (The Thousand Pillars Hall) and the Ashta Shakthi Mandapam are some of the explicit highlights of this temple.
Meenakshi-Sundareswar Temple is open from 5:00 am to 12:30 pm and 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm. Generally there is a long queue for the darshana but you can pay extra money and buy a shorter queue. Only Hindus are allowed inside the sanctums of this famous temple.
Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam
Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam, located about 5 kilometers from the Meenakshi Amman Temple, is one of the biggest temple Lakes situated in south. The Vaigai River is the resource of water to this tank. An island is constructed at the centre of the lake where Vinayakar temple is built up. A beautiful garden is cultivated surrounding the temple. Vinayakar temple is dedicated to Lord Ganesha, the God with Elephant face. The entire area of the lake and the island together is almost equivalent to the total area covered by Meenakshi Amman Temple.
It is believed that when earth was dug out to be used in the construction of Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal, this big abyss as created. Later, the chasm was converted to the Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam. 12 long granite steps are built on all four sides of this Lake. It is said that both the Vinayakar temple and the steps were built by the King Thirumalai Nayak.
Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam is popular for the traditional Float festival celebrated on the fool moon day of the month of ‘Thai’ according to Tamil calendar (Mid January – Mid February). This festival dates back to 17th century when it was first celebrated by King Thirumalai Nayak. This festival involves a boat ride to the Lord Vigneswara on the birthday of Maharaja Thirumalai Nayak.
Azhagar Kovil or Alagar Koyil, located about 21 kilometers from Madurai at the village named Azhagar Kovil and positioned at the foothills of Alagarmalai Hills, is a 5000 years old temple. Dedicated to Lord Sundararajar (Lord Vishnu), known by the name of ‘Kallazhagar’ here, this temple is widely known for its Chithrai festival. The God Kallazhagar seated in this temple is the brother to Goddess Meenakshi, who was supposed to reach Madurai in time for attending her wedding but was late and had to return. The idol placed in the sanctum is made of pure gold.
As the legend goes, Lord Kallazhagar arrived at this place to redeem Sage Suthapas (Mandooga Maharishi) off his curse felled upon him by sage Durvasa. According to the curse, the sage had turned into a frog. The natives still believe that this episode of redemption reoccurs here every year and so they enact the event in the month of Vaikasi. During the Chithrai festival when the wedding of Goddess Meenakshi is celebrated, Lord Kallazhagar is taken to Madurai to attend the wedding in a grand procession.
Placed at a very ideal spot, this temple is encircled by the ruins of a historic fort. It is believed that the King Malayadhwaja Pandya patronized this temple. The main tower at the entrance is credited to the account of Pandya Rulers. The sculptures that embellish this tower depict the epical scenes. The Vimana placed inside the Sanctorum is gilded by gold plates and is believed to have been built by Maharaja Jatavarman Sundara Pandya. After the decline of Pandya Dynasty, the Nayaka Kings took over when King Vishwanatha made a significant contribution to the development and renovation of the temple. The unique sculptures of the Kalyana Mandapam present a masterpiece of Nayaka style of architecture.
Other than the chief deity, Azhagar Kovil temple houses the shrines of various Gods and Goddesses like Goddess Kalyana Sundaravalli, Andal, Yoga Narasimha and Sudarshanar. It is said that nobody can speak lie at this temple. 300 meters tall hill positioned just next to the temple is well known for its famous springs namely: Noopura Gangai and Silamboru. Natives believe that these two springs have originated from the anklets of Lord Vishnu.
Koodal Azhagar Temple
Koodal Azhagar Temple, one of the oldest temples in South India, is a well known Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Azhagar (i.e. Lord Vishnu). Koodal is synonymous to the name Madurai. This temple, located in the heart of the city very close to the Meenakshi Amman Temple, and also near the Madurai Bus Stop, is one of the 108 holy abodes of Lord Vishnu. Surrounded by mighty stone walls, the Koodal Azhagar Temple is spread over the total area of 2.5 acres and is elaborated with five tired Rajagopurams.
A marvelous statue of Lord Vishnu placed in the temple is distinguished for its striking demeanor. This idol of Lord Vishnu demonstrates three different dispositions of the Deity – sitting, standing and reclining at the same time. Apart from that, the temple is celebrated for its architectural and sculptural wonders. Particular wood carvings in the temple portray the crowning ceremony of Lord Rama.
Additionally, shrines of Ram, Krishna, Andal, Lakshminarasimha and Navagraha are also worshipped in this temple. Vaisakhi is the annual festival celebrated here and at that time Dashavataram of lord Vishnu are enacted. Other festivals like Kartikai and Vaikuntha Ekadasi, Krishna Jayanti, Aadi Pooram, Navaratri, Maasi Teppa Utsavam and Garuda Sevai are also celebrated at the Koodal Azhagar Temple.
Thiruparankundram, situated about 10 kilometers from Madurai City, is a Panchayat Town in the district of Madurai. Renowned for the ‘Lord Murugan Temple’, this town holds immense religious significance. ‘The Lord Murugan Temple’ at Thiruparankundram, built by Maravarman Sundara Pandya, is acknowledged as the first of the six headquarters of Lord Murugan. The mythical framework behind this temple is extremely entertaining and fascinating.
Lord Murugan defeated the demon king Surapadman in a fierce battle and released the Gods from his imprisonment. As a reward, Lord Indra, the God King, offered Murugan to give away his daughter Deivayani in marriage. This divine wedding took place at Thiruparankundram. Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati; the parents of Lord Murugan along with all the Gods and Goddesses arrived here to bless the auspicious wedding. Viswakarma, the divine sculptor constructed a mansion for Lord Murugan and his newly wedded bride at Thiruparankundram.
This temple is the only shrine of Lord Murugan where he is seated along with his first wife Deivayani. At all other temples of Lord Murugan, the idol of the God along with his both the consorts Deivayani and Valli are worshipped. As this temple at was the wedding place of Lord Murugan, it is considered to be a very auspicious venue for marriages. Thousands of weddings have been solemnized here.
The Mandapam of this temple supported by 48 pillars is decorated with exquisite stone carvings of Gods and Goddesses. The idol of the Nataraja in the dancing stance and Parvati in a reclining posture on Nandi and watching the dance is placed here. This is the only temple where Lord Brahma is worshipped and where both sun and moon are placed at the same site. The extraordinary feature of this temple is the cave shrines that are finely excavated in the rock. The temple is open between 5:30 am and 9:00 pm.
Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal
Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal, situated nearly 2 kilometers from the celebrated Meenakshi Amman Temple, is a palace built by Maharaja Thirumalai Nayak of Nayaka Dynasty in the year 1636 AD. Blueprinted by an Italian architect, this palace depicts a classic specimen of the dandy amalgamation of Dravidian, Islamic and European architectural manner. Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal was used as the residence and the main palace by the royal Family of Nayaka Kings of Madurai. The original palace was four times larger than the present one. When the Nayaka Empire was at its culmination, this palace was regarded as one of the architectural wonders of South India. 18th century witnessed the gradual demolition of the actual palace. What remains toady were the Svarga Vilasam, an enclosed court and a few buildings adjoining Svarga Vilasam inside the bigger palace. Yet the palace still basks in the glory of the past.
3,700 sq. meters courtyard surrounded by enormous circular pillars welcome you as you enter the gates. The original palace was divided into two portions: Svarga Vilasam and Ranga Vilasam. In these two sections the royal residence, apartments, palanquin place, shrine, quarters, theatre, royal bandstand, armory, pond and garden were housed. The palace was built in foliated brickwork and an exquisite stucco called chunnam. This chunnam was made of mixing shell lime and egg white.
After Independence, the Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal was declared a national monument and is preserved by Tamil Nadu Archaeological Department. This Mahal is open for the tourists from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Kazimar Big Mosque and Maqbara
Also known as ‘Kazimar Periya Pallivasal’, Kazimar Big Mosque and Maqbara are situated about 1 kilometer from Madurai Junction, 500 meters from Periyar (Central) bus stand and nearly 800 meters from the world famous Meenakshi Temple. ‘Hazrat Kazi Syed Tajuddin’, the descendant of Prophet Muhammad had arrived from Oman in 13th century. King Kulasekara Pandya gifted him a piece of Land where he constructed the big mosque which was the first Muslim worship place built in Madurai. The word ‘Periya Pallivasal’ means big mosque. This mosque is so big that it can accommodate about 2500 people at a time.
‘The Maqbara’ located inside the premises of the mosque is the dargah of the renowned Madurai Hazrats. They are the descendants of Prophet Muhammad. The names of these Madurai Hazrats are; Hazrat Meer Ahamad Ibrahim, Hazrat Meer Amjad Ibrahim and Hazrat Syed Abdus Salaam Ibrahim Rahmatullahi Alaihim. The descendants of ‘Kazi Syed Thajuddheen', known by the title ‘Syeds’ were called the ‘Huqdars’ (the shareholders) of this mosque. They stayed at this place for more than 700 years and have been taking care of the mosque since then. The street where this mosque is situated is known by the name ‘Kazimar Street’. The Sultan appointed Syed Thajuddheen his Kazi. Even today, his descendants stay at Kazimar Street and they serve as the Kazis to Government of Tamil Nadu. They follow the Sufi order Fassiyatush Shadhiliya.
‘Hazrat Kazi Syed Tajuddin Arabi Madrasah’ is set up inside the campus of Kazimar Big Mosque where nearly 75 students are taught basic Arabic.
Perched on the north banks of the Vaigai River, ‘Goripalayam Dargah’ is a mighty mosque located at Goripalayam of Madurai. It is said that this Dargah was built by Maharaja Thirumalai Nayak for the sake of Muslim subjects staying in his kingdom. The word ‘Goripalayam’ has been derived from Persian language where ‘Gor’ means grave. The magnanimous dome of this Dargah is 20 feet tall and 70 feet in diameter. A single block of stone was brought all the way from the Azhaga Hills and this dome has been chiseled out of it. Clearly visible from the A.V.Bridge, this dome is colored in a peculiar green.
The graves of two famous Islam saints who also ruled Madurai - Hazrat Sulthan Alauddin Badhusha (Radiyallah) and Hazrat Sulthan Shamsuddin Badhusha (Radiyallah) are housed in Goripalayam Dargah. These two brothers had arrived from Oman to Madurai in 13th century to spread Islam. They reined the northern Madurai as the free Madurai Sultanate. Hazrat Kazi Syed Tajuddin Radiyallah stayed at Kazimar Street and was appointed as the Kazi by the government. Outside the Maqbara an ancient Tamil inscription is found which proves that the Dargah existed since 13th century. The annual festival celebrated at this dargah is called Urus festival. This festival is organised on 15th night of the Rabi al-awwal month every Hijri year according to Islamic calendar.
Gandhi Museum, housed in the Rani Mangammal palace at Madurai is the first memorial set up in the honor of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation. After his assassination, a nationwide appeal was made to build a memorial for him. Many rich and poor civilians of India came together and a Trust named ‘Gandhi Memorial Trust’ or ‘Gandhi Smarak Nidhi’ was raised. The first memorial museum was established at Madurai and inaugurated by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on April 15th, 1959. Today Gandhi Memorial Museum is one of the five Gandhi Museums in India. UNO has selected this museum as the peace museum.
This museum is divided into three sections.
1) India Fights For Freedom – Where 265 illustrations recite the history of the movement of independence.
2) Visual Biography of Gandhiji - Photos, paintings, quotations, manuscripts, sculptures, Photostat copies of Gandhiji’s letters and renderings are exhibited here. The most striking feature of this gallery is that 124 rare photographs depicting various phases of the life of Mahatma Gandhi starting from childhood till being taken to the crematorium are displayed here.
3) Relics and Replicas – 14 original things used by Gandhiji are kept here. The Blood Stained Cloth of Mahatma Gandhi that he wore on the day of assassination is preserved in a vacuum glass box.
Vaigai Dam, a multipurpose dam built over the Vaigai River is situated about 69 km from Madurai. This dam is the source of water that is used for drinking, irrigation and electricity generation. It also provides a very good opportunity for fishing. Vaigai Dam is turning into a favorite tourist’s destination quite fast. Fringed with a natural border of lush greenery on one side and frilled with a beautiful man made garden cultivating exotic floral plants on the other side, Vaigai dam makes a really appealing site. An agricultural research center is established near the dam to study the crops and vegetation that grow in the land around the dam. A zoo and a park for children are under construction and they will be ready pretty soon.
Vaigai Dam was inaugurated to public from 21st January 1959. The height of this dam is about 111 feet and it has the capacity to store about 71 feet of water.
Manalur, a small town situated on the banks of the river Vaigai, about 20 km from Madurai is a very important archeological site that unravels the cultural, historical and religious heritage of Tamil Nadu. Manalur once functioned as the capital of the Pandya Kingdom, which is not much known to people. During the later rule of Pandya Emperors, though Manalur was not the capital, it was a very important region. Evidences like icons of Lord Krishna in child form and idols of Bikshadanar, a sacred lamp, a holy conch and some vessels used during 13th century in Manalur are found in the excavation here. The villages near Manalur named Iravathanallur, Virahanur, Konthagai etc suggest the connection with the episodes of the Mahabharata. Archeologists are hoping to discover more relics that would help to disclose the mystery related to Pandya dynasty.